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Super Bowl LIII Commercials: A Tale of Two Technologies

Megan Amrich headshotWords by Megan Amrich
Data & Technology
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If you believe Sunday night’s Super Bowl commercials, robots are taking over the world. Well, at least trying to, but failing at it.

Several articles yesterday and today have focused on the theme of technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI), in last night’s ads. Many ads made viewers laugh by focusing on what technology can’t do.

Two standout commercials from Google and Microsoft took a different approach: they highlighted how technology can encourage inclusion and opportunities for veterans and people with disabilities, respectively.

Google: “Job Search for Veterans”

Google’s ad in the second half of the game was simple, understated and powerful. In the spot, different codes – made up of letters and numbers – fill the screen. Narrator John Krasinski explains these letters and numbers may not mean much to most people, but to the 7 percent of Americans who “keep the rest of us safe,” these codes mean a great deal. Soon, the camera pans out to show more context for the codes – they are MOS or “Military Occupational Specialty” codes typed in military personnel files. The ad shows that by typing “jobs for veterans” followed by the MOS code, Google will give results for relevant civilian jobs.

The commercial is part of Google’s #ForWhateversNext initiative, which helps veterans find post-military job placement. According to Google, more than 250,000 members of the military transition into civilian life each year. To assist these veterans and their families, Google created the “jobs for veterans” search feature highlighted in the Super Bowl commercial. This feature is available not only on Google, but also on any recruitment site or job board using Google’s Cloud Talent Solution platform. 

Focusing on veterans was an effective strategy for Google. In a January 2019 Morning Consult survey, 70 percent of respondents said they would be “more likely to have a favorable opinion of a company” that uses its Super Bowl commercial to advocate for helping veterans. This was more than any other social or political issue mentioned in the survey, including disaster relief, gun control, gender equality or civil rights.

Microsoft: “We All Win”

Microsoft’s Super Bowl spot expanded upon its popular “Reindeer Games” holiday ad, following a boy named Owen as he plays Xbox games with his friends thanks to the Xbox adaptive controller. In the Super Bowl commercial, Owen is one of several young video gamers featured. Like Owen, the other kids also happen to have limb differences or mobility issues that can make gaming difficult. The Xbox adaptive controller, however, is compatible with a range of joysticks, switches, wheelchair mounts and other accessories to help.

“No matter how your body is or how fast you are, you can play. It’s a really good thing to have in this world,” Owen says in the commercial.

Full disclosure: As the mother of a young boy with disabilities, this commercial hit especially close to home. I’ve seen firsthand the power of adaptive equipment for both communication and play, even in kids as young as one year old.  

I wasn’t the only one touched by this ad, though. It came in third place in USA Today’s Ad-Meter reader poll this morning. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, which ranks Super Bowl ads each year, gave Microsoft’s ad an A “because of its distinctiveness and emotional depth. The message was about how Microsoft is developing tools to help everyone win, such as a gaming device that helps people with disabilities play with more ease.”

Image credit: Microsoft

Megan Amrich headshotMegan Amrich

Megan is a freelance writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. Her blog - chronicling her experience as a parent of a special needs child - will launch later this year

Read more stories by Megan Amrich